Welcome back to Awesome Animal Advocates. I am your host Keith Sanderson and our guest is Scott Blais CEO & co-founder of Global Sanctuary For Elephants. And Scott is actually, um, talking to us from Brazil where he is located and it was, what?, 2013 you were involved in founding Global Sanctuary For Elephants. What is the missionary (sic) of your organization, Scott?”
Scott: “Yeah, you know, Global Sanctuary For Elephants is a relatively new non-profit organization and it is designed to help establish and develop and sustain elephant sanctuaries internationally. Globally, our society is changing. There are progressive legislations that is being enacted around the world that is putting an end to performing elephants. Some zoos are closing their doors and many more are being pushed to close their doors. But there is no alternative for these elephants. Where are they going to go?
And we need more sanctuaries, we need healthy alternatives. The most difficult time when establishing sanctuaries is the pivotal first fo… three to five years, it is the time when you do not have a good reputation, it is the time when you do not have a lot of public understanding especially in the new… a new country. And you have to… you need both of those in order to develop the financial support. It is also a time for a board of directors starting these organizations… they have the greatest amount of fear.
You have to invest the most amount of money and there is no guarantee. It is just like we said and had had in Tennessee, there is no guarantee that what is going to happen in two years or five years or what support is going to come down the road. And this is the scenario where many projects stagnate.
We have some colleagues in Europe that are working on the sanctuary and they have been working to get us started for about six years. And we said we had an opportunity. Not only did we have the knowledge, we have a good reputation, for, you know, not only our work with elephants but also with with trust from donors. They understand, you know, our dedication to their dollar and to the elephant programs. But also we have the belief and the trust of what will come, what will evolve because we have been there before.
So, we can bring all these elements together, combined with knowledge, uh, from, uh… We work with Joyce Poole who has been working with elephants in the wild for over 40 years. She is a wealth of knowledge and our experience, combined with several other advocates, came together saying ‘Let us develop this organization so that we can help get sanctuaries off the ground.'”
Keith: “Where abouts in Brazil? Do you actually have a physical sanctuary there or are you ju… you in the process of getting the property or just what is happening now?”
Scott: “A little bit of both. (laughs) We have been in Brazil for about a year. We are in more or less central Brazil. We are in the state of Mato Grosso M A T O space G R O S S O and we are close to the capitol city of Quiada, Q U I A D A that is the state capitol of Mato Grosso. And we do have property. We have yet to finalize the first full payment but we have secured land with an incredible owner. It is 2800 acres of just absolutely phenomenal land and one of the differences between here and where when we started the sanctuary in Tennessee is we are starting big right away because we know how fast the sanctuary will evolve.
So, we secured this incredible 2800 acre property in rolling hills, springs, in a climate that is ideal. In Tennessee we needed barns, elaborate barns for elephants in the wintertime. Here all we need is open-sided windows, structures that can protect us from the sun and the rain, that can be medical care centers but the elephants never have to be closed in a barn at any day during the year because the weather is, the climate is, absolutely perfect, ideal.
And so we have not started moving on to the property yet. We are just in these initial stages of gathering more support and we are, are about to start a funding campaign, a crowd-funding campaign to help us get the funding to kick uh…the development in process. With the funding in place, uh, we should be able to accept elephants within the first three to six months and we actually have about six to ten elephants that could come within the first year alone.”
Keith: “Wow that is amazing. Now, will this serve just Brazil or all of South America?”
Scott: “It is going to serve all of South America and possibly beyond. Uh, we have already been approached about so many elephants in Mexico. We have been asked about an elephant in Pakistan. And we have also been asked about elephants in Europe. So, this is… this opens up a world of possibilities. It is much more difficult to get elephants imported into the United States than it is going to be to get elephants imported into Brazil. And when I say imported, imported from captive scenarios, we will not be bringing elephants in from the wild, these are elephants that have already been compromised and traumatized in captivity and we are bringing them into a a healthier sanctuary.”
Keith: “I suppose that is important for people to understand because I think it probably would be highly unlikely that these elephants could ever survive on their own in the wild. Is that right? That is why they need the sanctuaries?”
Scott: “Their reality… and it… you know, we are dealing with a complex species, we are dealing with an incredibly complex species, as they are in the wild, and this is even further compromised, or further complex, (laughs) uh … there is a further complexity because of the the damage caused by captivity and the complexity of trauma. So it is a… it is a really difficult scenario.
The reality is there is a good probability we could rehabilitate some of these elephants to return to a wild space. However, there is a significant portion of them that will always need medical care because of the damage that has been done, because of the physical compromise that has been caused.
Emotionally, I believe they could evolve and could grow enough to… to develop their own little herd in a wild setting. Tragically, the wild does not exist anymore. Yes, there are phenomenal places in the wild that still exist. But there is not an opportunity for us to take wild spaces and use them for captive elephants. We have to preserve these wild spaces for the wild populations, the limited wild populations that remain. And that has to be our goal in these wild habitats, is to preserve these wild habitats for wild populations, first and foremost.
We can manage elephants quite well in captivity. We can manage them quite well in a sanctuary and this is the best-case scenario. We have looked at sanctuaries as a halfway house with possibly introducing them into a semi-wild habitat. But when you look at the whole picture again it is clear that the best use of finances, the best use of the land, the best consideration for all facets is to have sanctuary for captive elephants and really work to preserve these wild populations on their own.”
To Be Continued: Elephant Expert Shares His Amazing Story of His Life With Captive Elephants, His Appalling Discovery of the Mistreatment of Those Elephants and His Vow to Provide Sanctuary & Healing For Captive & Performing Elephants Worldwide : Part 5
How You Can Help Donate to Global Sanctuary for Elephants